Xylazine: What It is and How It Affects Humans

Published On: March 10, 2023|Categories: Addiction|
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Overdoses are one of the leading causes of death in the United States, and now a new threat is rising fast: an animal tranquilizer called xylazine.

This veterinary sedative is harmful to (and therefore not approved for) humans but has quickly become the latest drug in the addiction epidemic. While some individuals use this drug “straight,” it’s also being used as a filler ingredient in synthetic opioids, particularly fentanyl, a drug that is already one of the most addictive and dangerous drugs on the market.

As a result, xylazine is triggering a variety of alarming side effects in its users, as well as leading to increasingly more overdoses. Though this drug isn’t an opioid, its effects are similar.

In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at what xylazine is, the different ways it affects humans and animals, as well as the most common side effects.

What is xylazine?

Xylazine is a central nervous system depressant used by veterinarians as a sedative, muscle relaxant, anesthetic, pain reliever and tranquilizer. It’s typically used for assisting in surgical procedures, diagnostic testing and other safe handling and medical activities.

It’s not an opioid, but many of its signs and symptoms are similar to those that accompany opioid use, making it fairly difficult to distinguish the effects of one from the other without the assistance of a licensed professional.

Xylazine is not approved for human consumption but has become increasingly popular as a recreational drug in recent years due to its “high” effects and supposedly easier access to the drug. It can only legally be obtained through a prescription from a licensed healthcare professional, but for those with pets, this can sometimes be a relatively simple process.

Xylazine in animals 

Xylazine is a prescription medication that was designed to be used for veterinary purposes and as a sedative, anesthetic, muscle relaxant and analgesia. It’s commonly used in a variety of veterinary situations and for different reasons, including sedation for medical procedures, pain management, and tranquilization for or during transport.

Xylazine can be used in the assistance of treating a wide variety of animals, including dogs, cats, cattle, and horses, as well as other domestic, exotic and livestock creatures.

When administered to the right patients, in the proper circumstances and under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian, xylazine can be a useful and sometimes even life-saving medication. 

For humans, it’s not so much.

Xylazine in humans

Xylazine is not approved for human use in any form (for any condition) because no amount of xylazine is considered safe for humans. 

This sedative can easily be lethal to humans because we are significantly more sensitive to it than animals, and because it’s frequently consumed with other drugs (typically heroin, meth and fentanyl).

The most common xylazine side effects in humans include:

  • Respiratory depression (slowed breathing)
  • Drowsiness and amnesia
  • Hypotension (dramatic drop in blood pressure)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Slowed or stopped heart rate

One of the most common and severe human reactions to xylazine is that of necrotic (an irreversible condition where body tissue dies) skin ulcers. 

In the worst cases, xylazine abuse can lead to addiction, overdose and even death; xylazine overdoses aren’t always responsive to standard overdose-reversing antidotes.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use or has developed an addiction, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. 

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Our programs are comprehensive and fully personalized to you and your needs in order to best help you regain long-lasting sobriety and build your most fulfilling life. Our team of experienced professionals is dedicated to providing you with the highest level of care, in every phase of your recovery journey. 

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